New ANPR report released as “ring of steel” deadline looms

ANPR camera

ANPR camera - Credit: Daniel Wilson

A report released in the wake of Royston’s “ring of steel” surveillance camera system being deemed unlawful says number plate recognition technology has been “mis-sold” to the public.

Civil liberties group No CCTV has released the report, What’s wrong with ANPR, to coincide with the deadline for Hertfordshire Police to stop using the surveillance cameras around Royston.

As reported in The Crow in July, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued an enforcement notice to Hertfordshire Police to cease using Automatic Number Plate Recognition, or ANPR, cameras while they investigated whether the system is justifiable.

The deadline for the police to comply with the enforcement notice is Sunday, October 13

Charles Farrier of No CCTV said: “Number plate recognition cameras have been mis-sold to the public. Back in the 1980s it was claimed that the cameras were developed only to find stolen vehicles. Then as a nationwide network of thousands of cameras was quietly constructed in the early 2000’s it was said to be for finding incorrectly registered, untaxed or uninsured vehicles.

“However another little noticed use was stated in the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) ANPR Strategy documents, that of tracking vehicle movements. Not just vehicles linked to ongoing criminal investigations but all vehicles, with the information to be stored in national and local databases for two years . This is a mass surveillance tool which was constructed without any public debate. Notions of “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” show a ludicrous degree of naïvety.”

The “ring of steel” was erected in 2011, with cameras stationed at all the major routes in and out of town.

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In the wake of the ICO enforcement notice, Herts Police said that they undertaken considerable analysis of the justification for the use of these cameras in Royston”, and that they would be working with the commissioner to remedy his fears.